Reducing Your Risk

Reduce your riskIf you have ever had a stroke or experience any of the warning signs of a stroke, it is very important that you work with your doctor to determine the most likely cause of the problem and the best course of treatment for you.

Certain medical conditions greatly increase your likelihood of having a stroke. Working with your doctor, you may need to begin specific medical treatment to control these risk factors.

Medical conditions that increase your stroke risk:

  • Previous stroke or “mini-stroke” (transient ischemic attack, TIA).
    Depending on the most likely cause of your stroke, your doctor may prescribe specific medication or consider surgery to remove fatty deposits in your carotid artery.
  • High blood pressure.
    Hypertension is one of the leading risks for heart disease and stroke. Your physician may advise dietary or lifestyle changes, or specific medications to lower your blood pressure. Take a look at “Your Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure” from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
  • Diabetes.
    High blood sugar can increase your risk, so you should work closely with your doctor to manage it. Learn more about diabetes from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
  • Heart disease.
    If you have an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation), disease of the heart valves, congestive heart failure or have had a recent heart attack, your physician may prescribe medications to thin your blood and/or reduce your cholesterol level.
    Visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for more information on cardiovascular disease.

Controllable risk factors and lifestyle choices:

  • Smoking.
    Tobacco use is a major preventable risk factor for stroke and heart disease. Even if you have smoked for years, you can still reduce your risk by quitting now.
    Need help quitting? The Freedom From SmokingĀ® plan is free and available online at the American Lung Association.
  • Obesity, elevated cholesterol, and elevated lipids.
    Reducing your dietary intake of saturated fats and cholesterol may help reduce your risk of a stroke.
  • Physical inactivity.
    A sedentary lifestyle void of regular exercise can contribute to heart disease which may lead to stroke.
  • Excessive alcohol intake.
  • Illegal drug use.

Uncontrollable risk factors:

  • Increasing age.
    Stroke is more common in people over 60.
  • Male sex.
    Men and women both have strokes but stroke is more common at younger ages in men.
  • Heredity and ethnicity.
    Stroke is more common in people whose close relatives have had stroke at an early age. African-Americans and Hispanic Americans are at higher risk than white Americans. This may be due in part to high blood pressure and dietary differences.